Not news but you need to be reminded: carnival games are rigged

SURPRISE! Carnival games are rigged.

Rossen Reports: Are carnival games cheating you — and your kids? –

Carnival games can offer big prizes that seem so easy to win. And sometimes, people do! But ever wonder why some games are just so hard?

We rolled our hidden cameras from Missisippi to Indiana, crashing carnivals and revealing the tricks behind some of the most popular games, from the shootout to milk bottles and the tub toss.

“When I see a small child standin’ there handin’ over their allowance money to play a game that I know they cannot win, that really angers me,” said Walstad. “It’s theft by deception, end of story.”

In some cases rigged carnival games are illegal, but laws vary from state to state. And of course, there are games that are fair, that you can win. And experts say some carnivals are better than others. They advise you should play games where you’re competing against other customers, where someone is guaranteed to win. And there are also games for little kids, where you win a prize every time.


It’s not hard to figure this out even if you are about 10 years old. There is a reason why you can’t win the cheap, stuffed animals from fairs.

I reject the argument that it’s fun and entertaining to spend money trying these games; you are just feeding the monster. Go to a real arcade and know that you are buying entertainment, not a chance to look like a doofus because you can pitch the ball into the net or knock the bottles down.

  2 comments for “Not news but you need to be reminded: carnival games are rigged

  1. Fastmover01
    July 14, 2012 at 6:52 PM

    And all this time I thought I just sucked at shooting freethrows…. /sarc off/

  2. Iain
    July 16, 2012 at 10:48 AM

    Not all carnivals are the same. I once spent a summer running games on a carnival in Maine, and we gave away a huge number of prizes. The theory was that, the more people saw others walking around with your prizes, the more they would want to play your game. The rough rule was that prizes should account for 25% of revenue. So, on average, a punter would pay four times wholesale price for a prize. Sounds like a lot, but it’s really not much different to retail mark-ups. Besides, most people are paying for the fun of the game, not for the prize.

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